June 2, 2018
Bruce Kison pitches in Game 1 of the 1979 World Series (Ray Stubblebine/AP)
Former major league pitcher and Orioles scout Bruce Kison wasn’t a particularly imposing figure on the mound, but no one ever felt comfortable in the batter’s box when he was staring down from it.
Kison, who passed away from cancer at 68 on Saturday, stood 6 feet 4 and weighed less than 180 pounds in his playing days, but he was a tough guy who wasn’t afraid to miss inside and never shied away from the consequences.
He was also quite accomplished, compiling a 115-88 record over 15 seasons as both a starting pitcher and reliever. He was 5-1 with a 1.98 ERA in 10 postseason games and made all three of his World Series appearances against the Orioles in 1971 and 1979.
He owns the distinction of winning the first World Series night game after pitching 6 1/3 scoreless innings in relief against the Orioles and allowing just one hit during Game 4 of the 1971 Fall Classic.
Off the field, he was soft-spoken, intelligent and highly principled.
Covering him during my first season as a baseball beat writer in 1980, his first season with the California Angels, I learned quickly that he was not a big talker or self-promoter but expected you to be prepared when you showed up at his locker.
Once he was satisfied of that, he was a solid go-to guy who made sure you got had the facts straight, which is about all a reporter could ask for.
Principled? Kison injured his elbow and required surgery after he signed a multiyear contract with the Angels before the 1980 season and was so embarrassed by his inability to fulfill every bit of the deal, he went to Angels general manager Buzzie Bavasi and tried to give the money back.
During his time scouting for the Orioles, Kison was highly valued by the front office and manager Buck Showalter for his thorough reports and deep understanding of the game.
“He was a really good scout,” Showalter said. “His reports were always to the point, painted a picture and he was very good at pointing out the intangibles that separated good players. He’d give you statistically what you’d expect, but he would tell you a lot of other things. He had a lot of contacts in the game. He didn’t make many mistakes. We’re going to miss him.”
Kison retired last winter and was looking forward to having the time to do more of the things he enjoyed doing outside of baseball.
“It’s sad,” Showalter said. “He retired at the end of the winter meetings and he was so excited. He was a big fisherman. … He loved to fish and he was looking forward to that. His back had been bothering him a lot and once he went in and found the issue he had, he seemed to go fast."
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.